There are so many needles on the market today, it can be very confusing. I have learned over the years that using the right needle for the right job is essential if you want the sewing to be a pleasure rather than a chore.
Whatever I’m stitching, I need to know that my needle is: easy to thread; not too thick for the fabric otherwise it will leave a hole; easy to pull through the fabric and not a battle. Rather than tell you which needle to use, you need to experiment with different types to see which suits you best. My favourite needles may not be your favourite and my needle may change with different types of fabric and thicknesses of thread. An important thing to know about all needles is that their number suggests their size and the higher the number, the finer the needle.
So in a nutshell, these are the most common needles used for embroidery.
Crewel or Embroidery needles are medium length with a sharp point and a narrow eye. They come in numbers 1-12 and 6-8 are the most commonly used. They can be used for surface embroidery, crewel work, whitework and goldwork.
Tapestry needles have a blunt point and a large eye and are generally used for cross stitch and counted thread embroidery. They come in numbers 13-28 with 28 being the finest.These can be used for whipped stitches where the needle goes under the thread rather than through the fabric. These are suitable for children to use with Aida or Binca fabric.
Milliner needles are my favourite to embroider with and are commonly used in the Millinery trade. They are very long and thin with a shaft that is the same thickness as the eye.They are really useful for decorative stitches such as Bullion and French knots where the thread is wrapped around the needle several times. They come in sizes 1-10, no.5. is generally my go to.
Beading needles are the thinnest of all the needles so that they can pick up and travel through the tiniest of beads. They are very long and bend out of shape very easily, are very sharp and have a really small eye. they come in sizes 10-15 and are made from the finest steel wire.
Chenille needles are the same as tapestry needles except they have a sharp point rather than blunt. They come in sizes 13-28 the same as tapestry needles and are often used for crewel work because the eye is easier on the wool thread. Useful for metallic threads and ribbon embroidery.
There is an excellent download devised by John James (of John James needles) which I find incredibly useful. It explains all the needles and their uses but the really great thing is that it has actual real size illustrations of each needle. So when you find a needle you absolutely love, lay it on top of the illustrated needle and you can see what type of needle it is and the exact size. Then instead of buying a mixed size needle pack, you can be more selective and buy a pack of your favourite size. If you would like to go to the downloadable link on the John James website, click HERE